Known as the birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, Cyprus is one of the world’s most popular resort destinations nowadays.
On the other hand, it’s not all about beaches and sunbathing only. The island also offers its visitors numerous opportunities to explore the fascinating history, ancient archeological sites, marvelous castles and churches, waterfalls, and other natural and historical pearls of the country. It doesn’t matter, when you come to Cyprus, you’ll always find where to go and what to see.
If you are looking for a great sun-and-sea based relax in Cyprus, head to Larnaca. It has everything a great seaside resort might offer. And also, the old crumbling Turkish Quarter and the magnificent Church of St Lazarus add to its historical edge. You’ll always have something to explore history-wise in Larnaca, if you get tired of lying on the beach all day long. And the salt lake, just to the west from the city, boasts flocks of pink flamingos, which can be seen in spring.
Known as the most beautiful region in Cyprus, the Karpas Peninsula stretches in the northeast of the island and is covered with golden sands, as well as rugged hills. If you wish to discover the hidden and undeveloped part of the island, Karpas Peninsula is where you need to go.
Admire the mosaics of Agia Triada at Sipahi Village, explore the ancient ruins of Agios Filon church, or head to remote village of Dipkarpaz. Just keep in mind, there is no public transportation going to the peninsula, so you will need a car.
The nice town in the north of the island, Kyrenia has preserved most of its Ottoman character, particularly felt in the Old District, alongside the harbor. If you climb the Kyrenia Castle, you will get a magnificent view of the harbor and the town in general. The town is also great for strolling around, as you will find numerous wooden-shuttered houses in the narrow lanes running away from the waterfront. There are also plentiful cafes, where you can enjoy the view of the harbor, while soaking up the timeless atmosphere of the place and tasting delicious Mediterranean cuisine.
St. Hilarion Castle
Some of the most beautiful castle ruins in the Mediterranean, the castle boasts numerous legends and myths, born throughout its long history. The most famous one is about the fairy queen, who used to spend her time here charming the shepherds, and built a castle for herself. If you dare to climb to the top, the view that opens will be phenomenal. Keep this in mind: if you only have time for one castle in Cyprus, make it this castle.
Located on the Akamas Peninsula, Avakas Gorge is a 3-km-long natural wonder, surrounded by 30-meter-high limestone walls. If you wish to fully enjoy the magnificent view of rock formations, as well as the diverse flora and fauna, you should take a 7-km-long walking trail. But keep in mind, that the trail is quite difficult, and that rocks can be very slippery when wet. So, don’t forget to choose the proper footwear.
Hala Sultan Tekke
Also called the Mosque of Umm Haram sometimes, the place is a historic Muslim complex, situated on the banks of the Larnaca Salt Lake. It was built in 648 A.D. and these days, it is one of the world’s most important spots of Muslim pilgrimage. However, the place is open to people of any religion, so you can enter and admire the mosque on the inside as well.
One of the most recognizable monasteries in Cyprus, the Kykkos Monastery is located in the Troodos Mountains, 1318 meters above the sea level. It was founded in the 11th century, but, unfortunately, most of its original buildings were burned down and are now modernized. The monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is known as one of the only three places in possession of the icons painted by Luke the Evangelist.
The legend says, these baths were favored by the Greek gods Adonis and Aphrodite. Nowadays, you can swim in the pools below the waterfalls, hike, visit a photo gallery and a museum, or get some mud therapy here. Just choose an activity to your liking and have fun!
Medieval Castle of Paphos
Formerly a Byzantine fort meant to defend the Paphos harbor, nowadays, the castle is a popular tourist destination, attached to the main land with an arched bridge. The castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout its history, and its current building dates back to the Ottoman period. The castle is open to visitors all-year-round. Also, the square in front of it is where major cultural events are held, including the annual September opera performance, in which the castle usually takes part as the backdrop.
St Lazarus Church
Situated in the center of Larnaka, the Church of Saint Lazarus was built over the tomb of Saint Lazarus of Bethany. The building is a marvelous example of the Byzantine architecture, made mostly of stone, although its gold-covered iconostasis is a fascinating example of Baroque woodcarving. By the way, the Byzantine Museum, situated right next to the church, is also worth a visit.
This national forest park, known also as Cavo Greco, offers its visitors some beautiful trails, fascinating caves, and stunning sea views. You can enjoy numerous activities available, such as cliff-jumping, snorkeling, swimming, picnicking, and walking at low tide. Also, the magnificent white-washed church of Agios Anargyroi is a must-visit.
Some of the highest waterfalls in Cyprus, 15-meter-high Millomeris Waterfalls must be on your bucket list, when you travel to the island. Situated very close to Pano Platres village, the place is an oasis of beautiful nature for those, who are in search of some peace and quietness. Don’t forget about the proper footwear, as the area around the waterfalls is quite rocky.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on the southern coast of the island, just 11 km away from Limassol city center, the city of Amathus dates back to the 12th century B.C. The excavations are still going on, but you can visit numerous areas already opened to the visitors. Keep in mind, however, it is recommended to plan, at least, 2 hours to explore the ancient ruins of the city.
The Archaeological Museum in Limassol
Founded in 1948, the Archeological Museum in Limassol boasts a rich collection of artifacts found on Cyprus, which show the wide period of time, from Neolithic until the end of the late Roman period. The exhibition is divided into three large parts: pottery, coins and other metal artifacts, sculptures and other stone items.
Situated right in the heart of the city, the castle was built in 1193, but rebuilt in the 19th century, during the period of Turkish rule. The main highlights of the castle are the ground floor prison, which was in use until 1950, and the 2-meter-thick walls. The Cyprus Medieval Museum, situated in the castle, houses an exhibition of artifacts showing the history of the island from the 3rd until the 18th century. The collection includes coins, pottery, and various kinds of medieval weapons.
The former Crusader stronghold, Kolossi Castle, situated in the village with the same name, was an important military strategic object during the Middle Ages. The fortress is made of stone, with 1,25-meter-thick walls protecting it. Visitors are allowed to enter the dining rooms, the storage room, and the two bedrooms. To enter the castle, you will need to cross the suspension bridge, which is quite a unique experience. Don’t you think?
The former Neolithic settlement, situated at the foot of the Troodos Mountains, Choirokoitia is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the Mediterranean region. It was discovered in 1934 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. Don’t miss the five prehistoric dwellings near the settlement. They were reconstructed with the usage of the same materials, which were used in the ancient period, and outfitted with the exact copies of the household furnishing of that time.
Dedicated to the Ancient Greece civilization, Pierides is the oldest private museum in Cyprus. It was found in the 1815 building, which belonged to the Pierides family. The rich museum collection includes 2500 artifacts and represents thousands of years of Cyprus history. The oldest item dates back to 4000 B.C.
Protaras Ocean Aquarium
Home to over 1000 different species of ocean habitats, Protaras Ocean Aquarium would be a great destination for a family getaway. The major attractions include crocodile swamps, the penguin house, and a vast collection of exotic birds. Or take an exciting journey through water systems of the world and encounter species, such as eels, piranhas, and turtles. The zoo also boasts a tropical garden, which occupies 3 acres and is home to tropical plants, turtles, and crocodiles.
Dedicated to the marine history of Cyprus and open since 2005, the Thalassa Municipal Museum offers numerous interactive displays covering a wide period of time, for the paleontological era until the modernity. The major artifact is a life-sized replica of the famous Greek trading ship of the 4th century.
Petra tou Romiou
Known as Aphrodite’s Rock, the place is a popular tourist destination and a very important feature of Cyprus culture. The sea is too rough to swim in and the rocks are banned for climbing. However, the place is still worth a visit. The giant rock formations, which protrude from the waves, are magnificent and the pebble beach is very attractive. Come here to admire the real natural beauty of the island.
Kato Paphos Archaeological Park
The UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, the Kato Paphos Archeological Park is another highly popular travel spot in Cyprus. The city was the capital of Cyprus during the period between the 2nd century B.C. and the 4th century A.D. However, some monuments also date to the prehistoric era and the Middle Ages. The major sites include the Forty Column Castle, the theater, four Roman villas, and the ruins of an early Christian basilica.
Tombs of the Kings
Just a couple kilometers away from Paphos Harbor, there is a large archeological site, known as the Tombs of the Kings. It is an impressive collection of underground tombs, although it served rather for burying governmental officials, and not kings, as people tend to think. It is actually the grandeur of the place, which gave it the name. The tombs are cut right into the rock, and some feature magnificent fresco walls and Doric columns. The oldest tomb dates back to the 4th century B.C.
Home to a collection of over 800 paintings, the Leventis Gallery was open in 2014 and hosts numerous temporary exhibitions, in addition to a fascinating permanent one. There are three main parts of the collection, available for visitors: the Greek collection, the Paris collection, and the Cyprus collection.
Located 750 meters above the sea level, the Stavrovouni Monastery was found in the 4th century on top of the hill Stavrovouni by St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great. She also left a piece of the Holy Cross in the monastery, and this is one of the few places in the world, where the relic can be seen. Unfortunately, women are not allowed to enter the monastery. And men should be properly dressed to enter.
Some of the most beautiful and well-preserved mosaic floors in the world, the Paphos Mosaics date back to the 3rd – 5th centuries A.D. Paphos is a 291-hectare area, which hosts numerous villas, palaces, theaters, and tombs. The famous mosaics can be seen in the villas of Dionysus, Theseus, Aion, Orpheus, and the Four Seasons. The most impressive is the Villa of Dionysus, where you can find mosaics in 14 different rooms.
This magical place is situated right across the coastal cliff and offers a fabulous view of the countryside, as well as the beautiful Mediterranean Sea below. The major highlights of the place are the theater and the House of Eustolios, with some marvelous, very well preserved mosaics. And the large Byzantine basilica is also quite picturesque, with its grandeur columns and scraps of mosaic floor.
Another top historical site of the island, along with Ancient Kourion, this place is filled with marble ruins from different periods of time. Ruins of two Byzantine churches, Grand Hellenistic statuary, and a humongous reservoir are the main highlights of the area. Ancient Salamis is situated in North Cyprus and will be a great idea for a one-day trip from Nicosia.
Once home to the sanctuary of Aphrodite, Palaepaphos is one of the most respected sites of the island nowadays. It used to be an important center of Cyprus religious life since 1200 B.C. The Romans built the House of Leda here, their version of the goddess of love. Also, the Church of Panagia Katholiki is a marvelous example of Christian architecture. And the Lusigian Manor House, built during the medieval times, was an important administrative center of the town once.
One of the island’s most popular beaches, situated in the resort city of Avia Napa, Nissi Beach is mostly known for its party life. Young people from all over Europe flock to its white sands in search of great music, water sport opportunities, and, of course, perfect sunbathing. Water activities vary greatly here, from windsurfing and water-skiing to pedal boating. The beach took its name from the small islet, which is located rather close to the land. It can be easily reached by foot and is a great place for quiet relax, as there are no permanent habitats there.